Friday, August 28, 2015

I Notice You Have Cheese

Recently we drove to Oregon for a quick, 4 day trip.  We’ve visited Oregon once before in 2009. 

In 2009 one of the places we didn’t have time to see was the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  We made sure to stop by this time. 

I have always liked factory tours and this one was just what I expected.  Lots and lots of cheese!
We saw gigantic hunks of cheese and the smaller, more manageable hunks like you buy in the grocery store.  

It was a fun self-tour with lots of free samples.
I usually don’t buy the Tillamook brand because we like the Walmart brand just fine.  But, after we got back home, I decided to do a taste test to see if we could taste any difference.  Final result,  hummmmm we kind of liked the Walmart brand better.  I was a little disappointed in the results.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Final Count Is In

All our little birds have grown up and left the nests!  Considering the fire and drought conditions this year, it has been a good year.

We had a pretty bad fire close to the park that started July 5th.  The whole area the bluebird houses are in was closed to house the fire camp.  With several hundred firefighters camped out, a heliport, caterers, water trucks and other assorted personnel and equipment, we weren’t sure how that would impact our little birds.  For one week we were not able to check the houses at all.  The next week we were allowed into most of the area but there were still a few houses we were not able to get to.

Luckily our little birds (and our flying squirrel) came through it okay.

Final count: 113 Western Bluebirds, 50 Mountain bluebirds, 55 Tree Swallows, 27 Mountain Chickadees and 6 Black-capped Chickadees.

These numbers aren’t too far off from last year. 

With all the houses empty, we’re able to start cleaning and repairing.  We have 53 houses of which many need some kind of repair.  We are going to replace 8 of the houses because they are the wrong size or are getting so old they are falling apart.  Several houses need new critter guards (entry holes) because they have been enlarged by squirrels or woodpeckers.

It’s sort of a fun job to inspect each house, get it all cleaned and sanitized and ready for next year.

The first thing we do is --

Check for wasp nests: 

We are finding a lot of wasps nests this year.

Then, of course, spray the wasps nest: 

Extract the wasps nest: 

Scrap off the old poop and stuff:

Brush the house out real good:
Disinfect with bleach water:
Check to see if any repairs need to be made then close it up for the winter.

You might have noticed Mark wearing a jacket.  We are finally having some cool mornings.  I'm sure all the animals are enjoying the cooler temperatures.  We have been seeing a lot of turkeys this year. This is the largest group we have come across so far - 20!
We’ll spend a few evenings making new bluebird boxes then gathering them all up and getting them back out on the poles.

Another fun, successful Bluebird year!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

What do you do with 2000 tongue depressors?

You put on your thinking cap!

We’ve created a lot of fun, new interpretative programs this year.  The Jr. Ranger programs have continued to be very popular.  Having a lot of resources to use makes it a lot of fun for us also.  We have a wonderful volunteer coordinator (Errin) who is happy to get us pretty much anything we ask for.  We also buy supplies on our own, especially if we know what kind of program we want to create but are not sure exactly what supplies we will need.

Another interesting thing that happens to us is when staff and volunteers find something they think we would be interested in.  Several times we have had a volunteer come up to us and say “Here’s a skull/bone I found while I was out walking, I picked it up for you.”  Sometimes there is still a little hair and "ripeness" left.  But that’s okay, it’s nice of them to think of us!

Recently we were gifted with 2000 tongue depressors that one of the staff bought at a surplus sale.  We knew they would be useful for something, we just had to figure out how to incorporate them into a program.
We have a really fun Jr. Ranger program we call “Bring an Insect.”  We tell the kids to bring an insect and we will help them identify it.  Of course, we get a lot of ants and grasshoppers but the kids are always very proud of their bug (even if it’s not an insect). We bring a bunch of insects in jars and try to catch a few butterflies the morning of the program. Mark has been putting together a very nice insect collection that is still in progress.  Lately, with the hot dry weather we have been having, it is getting harder to find insects, or any critter for that matter.  So .... we decided we could just make our own.
Dragonflies!  Tongue depressor dragonflies to be specific.

A few hours and a lot of hot glue later, 80 tongue depressor dragonflies:
We’ll be doing the “Bring an Insect” program again soon.  We’ll bring all the crayons and markers so the Jr. Rangers can decorate their own insect.

Even after making all these dragonflies we still had a bunch of tongue depressors.  So, we came up with another project - bird feeders.  This one takes a lot more tongue depressors and also a lot more time.  It goes faster with two people.

One person lays down the hot glue:
The other person positions the tongue depressor and presses it in place:
(You might notice my tree slice necklace.  More on that another time.)
 We have quite the production going!
We’ll make 50 - 60 of these and take all the rest of the supplies with us to the program in case we don’t have enough made up.  We still need to add the string for hanging.  We’ll also give each kid a little baggie of sunflower seed to take home with them.

We’ll bring out the crayons and markers and let everyone decorate their very own bird feeder.

Here is one we hung at our place.  It didn’t take long at all for the chickadees and nuthatches to find it!
Red-breasted Nuthatch enjoying our hand-made feeder.